Spotlight on BBC One’s miniseries SS-GB + Interview with actor Maximilian Dirr

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This past Sunday, BBC One finally aired one of my most anticipated series (well it’s a 5-part miniseries) starring my fave Yorkshireman Sam Riley. I’ve mentioned the project several times, including here and here.

Naturally it’ll make you think of Amazon’s Man in the High Castle but set in London. Based on the 1978 novel by Len Deighton, SS-GB is a dystopian thriller set in an alternative 1940s London, where the Germans have won the Battle of Britain, and the capital is under Nazi occupation. Sam Riley stars as Douglas Archer, a Scotland Yard detective who’s torn between co-operating with the SS or joining the resistance. He becomes embroiled in a sinister underworld while investigating what appears to be a simple black-market murder.

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Joining Riley is Kate Bosworth, as American journalist Barbara Barga, who finds herself linked to the case Archer is working on. SS-GB is written by James Bond movie writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, and other cast members include Jason Flemyng, James Cosmo, Aneurin Barnard, Maeve Dermody.


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Well, recently I got to chat with one of SS-GB’s supporting cast member Maximilian Dirr, a Munich-born actor who spent his childhood in both Germany and Italy, speaking both languages fluently. Check out my interview with the talented International actor on his work on SS-GB, as well as his next project in The Crown season 2.

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Q: It seems that you have a stage background following your studies at National Theatre Academy, but you’ve been doing various TV and film work. Which medium do you prefer and most comfortable with?

I’ve started working on the stage very early so I’m more comfortable with it but in the last years I made many experiences also on TV and movies. The languages are very different and I think both can learn from each other. At the moment I’m working more on film and I must admit that I really love it.

Q: What’s your first film role and how did you get cast in that project?

My first film role and experience was a short film in Genua. I was studying at the National Theater Academy and a casting director came to cast this short film. I had a lot of fun during the audition and they chose me for an northern Italian guy. From there on I definitely knew that I wanted to do more film projects.

Q: What was your role in The Best Offer and how was it working with Geoffrey Rush?

In The Best Offer (directed by Cinema Paradiso‘s Giuseppe Tornatore) I played an assistant of Geoffrey Rush and it was wonderful working with him. Even only from watching him you can learn so many things. It was also one of my first roles in a feature film.

Q: Now, as for SS-GB, could you tell us a bit about your role in that BBC miniseries? You said you had a scene with Sam Riley, can you tell us a bit about how your filming day went and your experience working with him?

In SS-GB I´m a Patrol Commander. I have a very nice scene with Sam Riley where I threatened him because he is with a girl who doesn’t have a passport with her. We had a lot of fun playing this scene also because at one point he also had to speak german and he wondered how much you can hear his accent. Sam has a very nice British accent when he speaks German.

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Maximilian in a still from SS-GB

Q: It’s such a bummer that The Vatican pilot didn’t get picked up as I’m a big fan of that cast and it looks like an intriguing series. How was it working with Ridley Scott and/or any of the cast members?

Yes, it’s a bummer that the series didn’t get picked up. I had a lovely part in it and played a swiss guard who was very close to the Pope played by Bruno Ganz. My part would have been very big in the series as I was the right hand of the antagonist. But sometimes when one door closes another one opens. So who knows what´s up next. Working with Ridley was awesome. He trusts his actors very much and respects them. It was my most amazing experience until now. I met great actors and lovely people.

Q: How difficult is it to work with German/ Italy/ English productions? There must be quite a different process for each country as well as the inherent cultural distinctions. How do you manage to overcome some of the challenges?

I love to work on the international market so it’s a pleasure for me coming to shoot in London or wherever. Having said that, of course the process in every country is very different. To be honest with you I prefer the English/American Film market and also the German Films. I have the impression that they risk more. I’m based in Berlin and Rome, and travel a lot for work. Nowadays you make many self-tapes so it’s not so important where you stay. You have to be flexible.

Q: What’s next for you? Feel free to elaborate about your future projects.

Last Summer I completed a feature film called Maria Mafiosi directed by Jule Ronstedt. It’s a German comedy about the Italian mafia and I have a very funny role. I also just finished shooting for The Crown season 2, directed by Stephen Daldry. I’ve a nice small part in one episode. Recently I’ve also finished an international feature film called Sobibor directed by Russian filmmaker Andrey Malyukov where I’m in the main cast. We shot in Lithuania and the film is about the escape from the Camp Sobibor. A true story.

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Next week I’ll start shooting in a leading role for an episode of Non Uccidere for Rai/Netflix. Also many different films will be released soon so we’ll see what’s next.

THANK YOU Maximilian for chatting with me!


Belated Birthday Tribute to Sam Riley

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I can’t believe I missed my darling Sam’s birthday yesterday!! My favorite actor turned 37 on January 8… and since he made his breakthrough debut in Control in 2007, he doesn’t seem to have aged a day!

He was born on January 8, 1980 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. I love his Yorkshire accent, spoken with his signature husky voice. He’s a chain smoker which likely contributes to that… and he’s got that devil-may-care attitude paired with self-deprecating wit that’s so irresistible!

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Oh Sam Riley… how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Yes I know the word ‘underrated’ is not a popular word to use right now, but I really do think Sam is grossly under-appreciated as for whatever reason, he’s simply hasn’t gotten as much work as his fellow Brits. Maybe because he lives in Berlin, away from Tinsel Town or even the UK’s movie scene in London. And he’s a happily-married man, he’s been married to Romanian/German actress Alexandra Maria Lara for 8 years (a lifetime by Hollywood standards) and has a young boy together.

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Sam w/ Alexandra on the premiere of Free Fire, Fall 2016 – photo courtesy of SamRiley.org

They met on the set of Control, which is kind of a fairy tale romance in itself, and they worked together again in Suite Francaise in 2014.  Look at these two, such a gorgeous couple!!

I was literally hyperventilating last week when I saw BBC ONE’s preview featuring SS-GB … can’t wait to get my copy of the February edition of EMPIRE magazine. Lookie here, Sam in a glorious spread as a Scotland Yard detective, decked in a dapper suit and fedora? YES PLEASE!!

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Courtesy of @CarryOnScarlett tweet

I’m also super excited to see Sam in Free Fire! I’ve posted the first trailer here, which looks like a hoot w/ a terrific cast! So there are at least two of Sam’s work I’m looking forward to in Spring, hopefully more to come later in the year.


Photos courtesy of AdoroCinema

Well, I did a Sam Riley marathon last year which made me appreciate him even more as an actor. He’s so self-deprecating that he often says in interviews that they only hire him ‘to blow smoke rings and cry’ as his debut role as Ian Curtis is a forlorn, suicidal tortured soul who smokes like a chimney. But clearly he’s more versatile than that, having played a psychopath (Brighton Rock), Beat Generation pioneer Jack Kerouac (On The Road), a naval vampire (Byzantium), an Austrian cowboy (The Dark Valley), a man bird (Maleficent), a French farmer (Suite Française), and of course, Colonel Darcy (Pride + Prejudice + Zombies)… the role I fell head over heels in love with.

So in my tribute to the phenomenal actor who I think should get more leading roles… here are five key roles that will forever mark me as a Sam Riley fan.

CONTROL (2007)

A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.

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Since January 8th was also the birthday of rock icon David Bowie, it’s only natural I include THIS very scene from Sam’s debut role in a feature film. It’s been a decade since that film came out and I think it’s still regarded as one of the greatest, most poignant rock biopic ever made. Sam’s devastating performance doesn’t just capture Ian as a musical genius, but he captured the enigma and inner pain of the young man, who’s dealing with epilepsy and depression as his band gained fame beyond his control.

On the Road (2012)

Young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.

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Sam once again portrays a real-life persona, as his character Sal is basically Jack Kerouac. He sports an effortless American accent as a quiet, reflective writer observing his wild and carefree friend Dean. He works well with Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, who at the time was at the height of Twilight’s mass hysteria. He’s the kind of actors who can disappear into his roles, he has an earthy every-man quality about him, yet he makes even the most mundane activity like typing or just scribbling in a notepad seems so darn sexy.

 

Byzantium (2013)

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Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort.

Sam didn’t have a big part in this film but his role of Darvell is an important one to the story. Like the rest of the cast, the actors portray their roles in two separate timelines centuries apart. I’ve done a full review of it here, it’s quite a mesmerizing film by Neil Jordan… eerie, ethereal and mysteriously romantic. Wish I could find the exact clip, but I love all the scenes between Sam and Gemma Arterton. It’d be cool to see them do a film together again one day.

The Dark Valley (2014)

Through a hidden path a lone rider reaches a little town high up in the Alpes. Nobody knows where the stranger comes from, nor what he wants there. But everyone knows that they don’t want him to stay.

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This is the film I tell everyone to see if they’ve only seen Sam in Control. It’s an excellent Schnitzel Western (read my full review) shot entirely in the Austria Alps where the characters are Austrian/German except for Sam. He learned German when he married his wife, and to me he sounds very much believable as a taciturn, lone-ranger type who exacts vengeance on a group of townsfolk in a meticulously-calculated way. I always love actors who could convey a lot of emotions with his eyes and facial expressions alone, and Sam certainly got to do that here, whilst also being a bad-ass cowboy at the same time!

Check out my Music and Cinematography appreciation for this film here.

Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016)

Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies.

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Well, THIS is the role that got me to notice Sam, which is a major reason why PPZ is on my top 10 list of the first half of 2016. Though I’m a huge period drama fan, for some reason I’ve never been into Mr. Darcy. Give me Captain Wentworth or Colonel Brandon any day over Darcy, but that is until Sam’s COLONEL DARCY came along. From the moment Lizzy saw him arriving at the ball (beginning at 01:48 in the clip below) I was a goner!

Then of course there’s the initially-awkward proposal scene that ends in a glorious, sexually-charged battle between the two… woo wee… THIS is the kind of Darcy I’ve ever hyperventilated over. The chemistry between him and Lily James is off the charts!

Some might say Sam isn’t as dastardly handsome as Colin Firth (which I beg to differ), but he certainly imbued his Darcy character with an extra dose of badassery without sacrificing his romantic side. In fact, in his second proposal scene, he’s perfectly swoon-worthy!

Favorite Sam Interviews

Well I always say that I can’t fall for any actor who lacks personality… no matter how good looking *cough* Henry Cavill *cough* But Sam’s interviews are a hoot, they’re almost as entertaining as watching him act.

His voice is music to my ear too, and he’s just as entertaining to listen to in a podcast interview!


I literally could go on and on in this post about Sam… but I better wrap it up and post this. I hope you learned a bit more about the talented actor, and hopefully check out more of his work!


What film(s) have you seen Sam Riley in? 

Five for the Fifth: JANUARY 2017 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Well HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! (I think you can still say this for at least another week 😉 ) Hope you had a great Christmas break. I barely had any vacation left but I did take the last Friday of the year off, and since Monday was a company holiday it was nice to get four days off. It ended up being a pretty productive time as we were able to binge on Westworld! So yeah we’re done with all of season 1 and boy that season finale is phenomenal!!


We got a free trial month subscription on HBO, but since we already got Netflix and Amazon Prime, we’re not gonna pay another $15 bucks to continue. But since we still have 3 weeks left, we’re hoping to catch up on season 1 of True Detective. We’re 2 episodes in so far and we loved it.

So did you binge on any TV show(s) this holiday season?  

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2. It seems easy to poke fun at the superhero genre. Veteran filmmaker Ridley Scott’s recently quoted as saying “Superhero movies are not my kind of thing — that’s why I’ve never really done one… [I’ve been asked] several times, but I can’t believe in the thin, gossamer tightrope of the non-reality of the situation of the superhero.” [per The Wrap] He went on to say, “I’ve done that kind of movie: ‘Blade Runner’ really is a comic strip when you think about it. It’s a dark story told in an unreal world. You could almost put Batman or Superman in that world, that atmosphere, except I’d have a f—ing good story, as opposed to no story!”

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No story. Ouch! Though it made me laugh when he said about the non-reality bit, I mean Alien and Prometheus aren’t exactly steeped in realism now are they? I agree BVS is shiat but he clearly hasn’t seen the Captain America trilogy.

Another slam to DC superhero universe comes from the Batman himself. It seems Ben Affleck isn’t too sure about directing the Batman films for DC. Asked by The Guardian about directing The Batman, he replied “That’s the idea. But it’s not a set thing and there’s no script. If it doesn’t come together in a way I think is really great I’m not going to do it.” Heh, he certainly doesn’t sound like he’s clamoring to save the DC universe, does he?

Thoughts on Scott’s and Affleck’s comments?

3. After seeing Knight Of Cups, I felt inclined to just give up on Terence Malick altogether. I mean, a visual poetry should not be confused with feature films, and I bet even poetry has more to say than a film with no script. But dayum, does the guy knows how to get actors to star in his films, even despite not knowing if they’d actually end up in the final cut!

So apparently his latest film Song To Song (previously titled Weightless) is scheduled to be released in mid March. Here’s a first look image courtesy of Collider:

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“In this modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress whom he ensnares (Natalie Portman) — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.”

I also found this image from IMDb … is Bale wearing the same black shirt from Knight of Cups??

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The film also stars Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, Benicio Del Toro, Cate Blanchett, Haley Bennett, and a slew of music artists: Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine, and all of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Are you a Malick fan? Whether or not you are, thoughts on Song To Song?
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4. It’s just my luck that I always fall for actors whose work aren’t readily available in the US :\ I’ve been waiting for this BBC series for over a year now, and there’s barely any news on it! Well finally I got a glimpse of my darling Sam Riley on this BBC trailer…

RadioTimes also posted this article 17 TV dramas everyone will be talking about in 2017. Thrilled to see SS-GB on there. I’ve read the book, as I’ve mentioned about it here, and I knew Sam would be perfect in the role!


Based on the 1978 novel by Len Deighton, SS-GB is a dystopian thriller set in an alternative 1940s London, where the Germans have won the Battle of Britain, and the capital is under Nazi occupation. Sam Riley stars as Douglas Archer, a Scotland Yard detective who’s torn between co-operating with the SS or joining the resistance. He becomes embroiled in a sinister underworld while investigating what appears to be a simple black-market murder.

Joining Riley is Kate Bosworth, as American journalist Barbara Barga, who finds herself linked to the case Archer is working on. SS-GB is written by James Bond movie writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, and other cast members include Jason Flemyng, James Cosmo, Aneurin Barnard and Maeve Dermody.

What do you think of SS-GB? What new/returning show(s) are you most looking forward to in 2017?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Jordan from Epileptic Moondancer Blog! Well, given US/Russia relations seem to harken back to the Cold War era, his question is ever so timely.

I love cold-war era films, with that paranoia always in the background. Some of my favorite cold war era paranoia/thrillers are ‘The Conversation’, ‘Seconds’, and to a more obvious extent, stuff like ‘The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.’
Richard Burton in 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold'
Richard Burton in ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’

So what do you think is the best cold-war film that was made during the cold-war?


Well, that’s it for the JANUARY edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

A Thanksgiving Post: 24 cinematic things I’m thankful for in 2016

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To all my friends celebrating Thanksgiving today… I hope that you’re all enjoying yourselves, whether it’s time spent together with family/friends or just chillin’ with your loved ones (like my hubby and I). It’s nice to be able to sleep in today and going to dinner/movies later today. To those in other parts of the world, I bid you happy-almost-weekend day 🙂

This has been quite a tumultuous year to say the least… but I always try to focus on the positive side of things. As this is a film blog, I thought I’d take the time to express my gratitude for blogging/cinematic-related things I’ve been blessed with this year… so naturally I have to start with…

1. My blogging friends who’ve supported my blog and comment regularly… Jordan, Keith, Cindy, Steven, Michael, Margaret, Jenna/Allie, Courtney, Nostra, Dan, Jay/Sean, Brittani, etc.

2. Living in a city with not one but TWO robust film festivals… TCFF and MSPIFF!

3. Being a part of TCFF staff as the official blogger, which allows me to meet wonderful filmmakers and talents.

4. Discovering indie gems at film festivals (esp. Blood Stripe and Moonlight at TCFF, and Beeba Boys and The Fencer at MSPIFF)


5. The wonderful opportunity to meet Lea Thompson and director Jim Hemphill during the MN screening of The Trouble With The Truth.

6. Discovering awesome new actors I’d love to see more of (I’ll be blogging separately on this later next month), special shout out to Kate Nowlin & Dominic Rains!


7. Getting an interview with the composer of Age of Adaline, Rob Simonsen, one of my favorite soundtracks I recently discovered.

8. The breathtaking New Zealand scenery in one of my fave films of the year, Hunt For the Wilderpeople.

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9. The amazing trifecta performance from the actors portraying Chiron in Moonlight

10. Wonderful classic films like Casablanca, which I rewatched on Thanksgiving eve.

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11. Female filmmakers in Hollywood & beyond…  here’s hoping to see even more of them in years to come!

12. Amy Adams’ performance in Arrival

13. Sam Riley‘s wonderfully-amusing performance as Mr Colonel Darcy in Pride + Prejudice + Zombies

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14. Aneurin Barnard‘s soulful performance as Richard III in The White Queen miniseries (that spurred my obsession on the last Plantagenet King.

15. The delightful Love & Friendship & discovering the droll Tom Bennett as the scene-stealing Sir James Martin.

16. Awesome Marvel series on Netflix: Daredevil + Jessica Jones (hoping to catch Luke Cage soon!)

17. The Wonder Woman trailer… which I’m feverishly anticipating to see come Summer 2017!

18. The fun cast of The Magnificent Seven remake

19. The wonderful,  music of Sing Street… a love letter to the 80s and the power of music.

20. Viggo Mortensen‘s bravura performance in Captain Fantastic.

21. The arresting beauty of Jeff Nichols’ film LOVING, and the affecting performances of Ruth Negga + Joel Edgerton.

22. The wonderfully uplifting Queen Of Katwe, featuring wonderful performances of Lupita Nyong’O + David Oyelowo.

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23. The originality and thought-provoking concept of The Lobster

24. Last but not least… I’m thankful that I finished my script this year… plus having the opportunity to do a script reading later in January! 🙂

 


What are some of the things you are THANKFUL FOR this year? 

A trio of brand new trailers: FREE FIRE, LIVE BY NIGHT and THE PROMISE

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Yaaaaaaaaaaaaassss!!!

Sorry ehm, now that I got my giddy enthusiasm out of the way… [well just enough so I can actually do a post, ahah]

Well if you’ve visited my blog long enough you’ll know how much I’ve been crushing madly on Sam Riley… and he deserves every bit of my love… and then some. Anyway, today we’ve got three trailers, two of which has two Batmans AND a Scarecrow too 😀

FREE FIRE

Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.

I’ve been waiting for this trailer since the day I heard Sam was cast in it… so that was about a year ago! I mentioned it here, can’t believe it’s been four months since we got its first official photo!

Well, today we didn’t just get ONE but TWO Free Fire trailers… the top one is the official UK trailer and below is the RED BAND trailer… more blood

Some lucky folks got to see this at TIFF Midnight Madness last night w/ the cast and crew… yes including my Sam!!


Well, early reviews have been mostly positive!

The main reason I’ve super excited for FREE FIRE is because Sam Riley‘s in it… but of course the cast is amazing! Besides Sam we’ve got Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Michael Smiley, Jack Reynor, and Noah Taylor.


I know Sam isn’t in the movie much, heck he’s not even mentioned in the trailer (what a travesty), but he’s been mentioned quite a bit in the early reactions of the movie on Twitter!! I have a feeling he isn’t gonna survive in this movie, and neither is many of the cast, but from the reviews sounds like director Ben Wheatley isn’t killing people off so soon. It’s a game of survival so I guess it wouldn’t be fun if everyone dies in the first act, ahah.

People are saying it’s as violent as the promos made it out to be, but also a lot of fun. Nothing like a good sense of humor to break all the tension of a group of trigger-happy gangsters stuck in a warehouse full of guns! There’ll be gunfire alright!


I’ve actually met Jack Reynor once… now if only I could meet Sam one day!!! [I believe I will!] 😉


I hope we get this one on the big screen, no US release date yet but the lucky UK folks will get this in March 2017.


Live By Night

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A story set in the Prohibition Era and centered around a group of individuals and their dealings in the world of organized crime.

Now this one I’m actually surprised to see a trailer so soon! But hey, I love pretty much everything Ben Affleck‘s directed, especially Gone Baby Gone, so I’m excited on that front. Now that he’s Batfleck, I do keep thinking that his gangster character Joe Coughlin looks as if Bruce Wayne’s dark past prior to him finding a conscience and becoming Batman to save his city from gangsters, ahah. It looks intriguing, though I’m not crazy about Scott Eastwood’s casting. I mean everyone else is great… Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, etc. I only wish his screen time is small [I didn’t see him in the trailer but that could be my selective perception, ahah]


The Promise

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Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris.

Seriously there’s barely ANY buzz on this movie! Aside from that super boring generic title, it’s got Christian Bale AND Oscar Isaac?? Bale is sporting a similar beard as in The Dark Knight Rises for some reason, and Isaac is doing a Turkish accent? Y’know what, I don’t know what to make of this trailer… it’s a love triangle set in the Ottoman Empire… sounds really juicy but somehow the trailer is just… okay. What was the promise in the title? I must’ve missed it in the trailer. Y’know generally I’m always wary of love triangles, it’s prone to clichès and schmaltziness, which is what I detect here too despite those two great actors. Montréal-based actress Charlotte Le Bon plays the woman in the center of the triangle, I’ve just seen her in Anthropoid. I’m not as impressed w/ her there as I was in The Hundred-Foot Journey. Well, I might go to the press screening if there’s one, otherwise more like a rental.


What are your thoughts on any one of these new trailers?

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FlixChatter Review: Das Finstere Tal (The Dark Valley, 2014)

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I have to admit I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon this Austrian Western if it weren’t for my affinity for English actor Sam Riley. And for that I’m grateful to him, and he’s an unlikely-but-perfect choice in the role of a German-speaking, Texas cowboy protagonist.

It’s always a good sign when a film starts off in a captivating way that made you want to know more. In the opening scene, we see a terrified couple hiding in a basement of a lodge. We don’t know who they are except they’re on the run, but soon they’re captured and the man is severely beaten as the woman is dragged away screaming.

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The film takes place years after that incident in the opening scene. A lone rider on a horse saunters into the secluded town. It’s one of my all time favorite opening credits ever. Exquisitely shot somewhere in Austrian Alps, set to the song Sinnerman by Clara Luzia that complement the setting beautifully. It sets the tone of the film that this is a slow-burn revenge thriller, as the action doesn’t really start until about a half hour into the film. But this is the kind of films that rewards your patience.

The mysterious stranger goes by the name of Greider (Riley). He’s got a cold welcome from the chieftains of the town, that is the six sons of Old Brenner. The Brenner clan has dominated the town for generations and for some reason the townsfolk are compliant to their rule. Despite the rude welcome, the Brenners let Greider stay, and even let him take photos of the family with his daguerreotype camera. Greider is placed in the home of a woman and her daughter Luzi, whom we later learn is the narrator of the story.

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The film takes its time before Greider exact his revenge, but the moment leading up to it in the woods is brimming with suspense. One freak logging accident happens after another, and of course Greider is immediately suspected. One particular accident is quite gruesome for my feeble nerves, but it’s nothing compared to the brutal scene that happens later in flashback. The film’s plot concerns a medieval practice jus primae noctis (the right of the first night) harshly enforced by the Brenner patriarch on the young woman in the town. The third act reveals who and what happens in the opening scene, it should be obvious by then which makes Luzi’s VO explaining it seems overkill.

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The strength of Das Finstere Tal is in its eerie quietness… the seemingly serene vista and the taciturn demeanor of its hero. Greider seems a passive man, not willing to fight back when he was beaten by one of the Brenner brothers during a shopping errand with Luzi. The fact that Riley isn’t who you’d picture as a cowboy actually makes him an effective actor for the role and he more than acquits himself well here. There’s a piercing intensity in Greider’s eyes, and a suppressed restlessness. He made you believe he’s filled with rage and absolute contempt for those who’ve wronged him, but he’s not a monster devoid of humanity. There’s a particularly memorable ‘gold coins’ scene between him and a female innkeeper. He’s so consumed with anger but backs away the instant he realizes he’s stooped to the level of the Brenners. I also love that scene in the end between him and Old Brenner, it’s so emotionally-charged with barely any words spoken.

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Austrian actor Tobias Moretti as the eldest Brenner son Hans and Paula Beer as Luzi are two of the most memorable supporting cast in the film. Hans is just a vile human being, appropriately brutal and cocky in his treatment of the hapless townsfolk. There’s a moment during a wedding where he orders the bride to dance that just makes me shudder with fear and loathing. The final shootout in the woods was perhaps a bit over the top with its use of slow-motion, but it’s still fascinating to watch. Greider’s bad-assery isn’t just that he’s a great shooter, but the fact that he’s planned his revenge meticulously, down to the Winchester rifle he brought just for the occasion.

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It’s a pity this film wasn’t chosen in the Best Foreign Language category in 2015, but it was nominated for nine German Oscars (the Lolas). I also wish Sam Riley had gotten some recognition because he truly displays such masterful acting here. He conveys so much with his eyes, he can be menacing and vulnerable at the same time.

I’m not well-versed in classic westerns, but I read that Austrian filmmaker Andreas Prochaska was largely influenced by Clint Eastwood’s westerns and some even compare it to Eastwood’s Pale Rider as it’s also about a lone hero taking on a village. But the setting and style in which the film is constructed certainly sets this one apart in this genre. The cinematography and music are particularly striking that I’ve made an appreciation post for that.

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The Dark Valley is one of the most beautifully-shot films I’ve ever seen. It made me wish I had seen it on the big screen. Cinematographer Thomas W. Kiennast seems to have that David Lean touch in capturing those amazing wide shots. Filmed in the mountainous region of Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, every shot is good enough to frame. The use of anachronistic music can be very effective when used well, and I think that’s the case here. German composer Matthias Weber did a fine job in creating an ominous, haunting tone to his score that fits the eerie, atmospheric feel of the film.

I can’t recommend this enough. It might be too slow or bleak for some but it’s certainly worth a look if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path genre film that’s as exquisite as it is haunting.

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What are your thoughts of ‘The Dark Valley?’

Top 10 Favorite Movies of the FIRST HALF of 2016

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This list is long overdue. I should’ve posted it sometime in July, but oh well, better late than never. This list only consist of films released between January – June 30, 2016. Some of these might’ve opened internationally prior to 2016, but I’m using the USA release dates or the fact that they opened at a local film festival.

I consider this list a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is a big factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types, but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (full review)

PPZ

As this is a list of favorites, there is no way I wouldn’t include this one on the list. I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen work, but at the same time I’m not a purist and so I thought this movie was a lot of fun! This is the film that made me fall for Sam Riley, whose portrayal of badass Colonel Darcy is wildly entertaining, and he’s the only Darcy I ever hyperventilate over. The epic first proposal fight scene alone warrants a place on my top 10 list! I also love Lily James as Lizzie Bennet as well as all the Bennet sisters. This currently stands as my most-watched 2016 movies so far. Oh, I’d also list the soundtrack as one of my faves from this year, too.

9. A Bigger Splash (full review)

Abiggersplash

I hadn’t heard much about this film but was drawn by the amazing cast, especially the pairing of Tilda Swinton & Ralph Fiennes as former lovers. Well the two are definitely the highlights here, and Matthias Schoenaerts also delivered a strong performance. It’s a slo-burn, absorbing psychological drama weaving a tale of jealousy, frustrated passion that escalates to a boiling point. Amazingly-shot in the picturesque island of Pantelleria, Italy, but definitely not a case of style over substance.

8. Midnight Special (full review)

MidnightSpecial

This the kind of science-fiction that’s more concerned about the emotional impact of the characters than dazzling us with sleek special effects. Though we’re dealing with a character from another world, Midnight Special is in essence is a father/son story. It’s not a flashy film, but it grabbed me right from its rather cryptic opening scene and never let up. I’m impressed once again by Jeff Nichols’ talent as a storyteller, and his frequent collaborator Michael Shannon delivered once again. Nichols’ new *muse* Joel Edgerton is also excellent here, and neither one of these actors have disappointed me in anything just yet.

7. Captain America: Civil War (full review)

CACivilWar

It’s a testament to the prowess of Captain America franchise that once again I’ve got yet another one of its film on my top 10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of my favorites of 2014! Civil War is an excellent film that ties all three Captain American movies superbly well and would rank amongst the best film trilogies of all time. After this, I’m even more confident in the Russo brothers’ directing talent and MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is definitely in capable hands if they continue to make Marvel movies.

6. The Jungle Book (full review)

JungleBook

Disney’s done it again! This, as well as Pete’s Dragon are two of Disney’s major remakes that I hadn’t anticipated at all until the time the film marketing was put into high gear. The CGI effects alone is a wonder, I was literally in awe of how realistic the animals were. But thankfully director Jon Favreau didn’t just make something that’s style-over-substance. He made the classic tale come alive again and feels new. I find Mowgli’s journey quite moving and I really do love all the characters, and Idris Elba‘s voice is wonderfully mesmerizing as the villainous tiger Shere Khan.

5. The Fencer (full review

Fencer

Out of all the films from MSPIFF that I saw this year, this is one that made the most impression to me. It’s the first Estonian film (that’s also filmed in Estonia) I’ve ever seen. It’s such a moving drama loosely based on an Estonian Fencer Endel Nelis who fled from the Russian secret police and became a physical education teacher at a small-town school. It’s a mix of mystery war drama and a sports underdog story that blends seamlessly. I hope you get a chance to check this out when you can, it’s a little movie with a huge heart that deserves an audience.

4. The Lobster (full review)

Lobster

It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to say this is one of the weirdest films I’ve seen in a while. I think the last film I saw that was as bizarre as this one was Holy Motors, but I rate this one much higher due to its emotional resonance. This film gets top marks for originality and thought-provoking concept, you’d be hard pressed not to think about it for days afterwards. It’s a great film to see with someone else so you can discuss it endlessly afterwards. It featured one of the best performances from Colin Farrell I’ve seen to date, and it introduced me to Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, definitely a striking talent to watch for.

3. Zootopia (full review)

Zootopia

I didn’t see this movie until it’s out on VOD and I must say I was gutted I didn’t see it on the big screen. I was blown away by how good this movie was and how compelling the story was, which proves that animated films have *matured* so much over the years. The plot is more of an action mystery thriller that is as clever and quick-witted as the movie’s protagonist. I love how the story keeps playing with my expectations throughout, cleverly weaving the themes of widely-held stereotypes and discrimination without taking away the fun of an animated adventure. I have bought the Bluray as I know this will be a fun one to watch over and over.

2. Sing Street (full review)

SingStreet

John Carney‘s done it again. This is the second movie of 2016 (after PPZ) which soundtrack has become one of my all time favorites! It’s Carney’s third film (after Once and Begin Again) that I absolutely love. There’s no other filmmaker working today who integrates music into the storyline as shrewdly as Carney does. I love 80s music and this is the perfect love letter to the music of that era. Featuring a gifted young Irish singer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (who was just 15 when he was cast), it’s such a fun celebration of the power of music. I was swept away by the infectious optimism of this movie, and I can’t wait to watch this again.

1. Love & Friendship (full review)

LoveAndFriendship

Another Austen film made my top 10… though it’s based on Austen’s lesser-known work. In fact, this was based on her short epistolary novel Lady Susan that was published posthumously in 1871. This is nothing short of a masterpiece from writer/director Whit Stillman, featuring a masterful performance by Kate Beckinsale in the title role and a delightfully-hilarious turn by Tom Bennett. You’ve never seen an Austen female protagonist like this before, the beautiful Lady Susan is as deviously-cunning as she is impeccably dressed. I enjoyed this movie immensely and I think the fact that it’s more of a satire than a romance drama, it’d be as enjoyable for those who are normally not into this genre. Funny, witty, and so gorgeous to look at, this is another Austen movie I could watch over and over for years to come.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Now, I think all of these are terrific films and well worth your time. In fact, I liked Deadpool So much so that I made a top 10 list why it won me over, so it was definitely the biggest pleasant surprise for me this year. I like Beeba Boys a lot, and had the pleasure of interviewing its filmmaker Deepa Mehta at MSPIFF in April.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

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Let’s see which of these films would end up in my FINAL top 10 of 2016. There are quite a few films released in the latter half that I loved… Pete’s Dragon, The Light Between Oceans, Captain Fantastic, Anthropoid, etc. that might end up on my final top 10. Plus there are others that haven’t even been released yet, such as these that I’m anticipating: Loving, American Honey, The Accountant, Queen of Katwe, The Girl on the Train, A United Kingdom, Rogue One, among others.


So that’s my Best list of 2016 so far. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you 😀

Sunshine Blogger Award

SunshineBlogger

Nothing like getting an award to bring a ray of sunshine to my day. I had just gotten back from my trip and was really exhausted when I got pinged on Twitter, so big THANK YOU Getter and Margaret for nominating me 😀

As given, every award has a set of tiny rules for accepting it, here are the ones for Sunshine:

Post the award on your blog
Thank the person who nominated you
Answer the 11 questions they sent you
Pick another 11 bloggers (and let them know they are nominated!)
Send them 11 questions

I’m going to combine the two set of questions from the two ladies, so here we go…

Questions from Getter:

1. What was the last movie you saw and loved?

Well, I just saw The Light Between Oceans last night. It’s not a fun movie given the subject matter, but I love the poignant love story and of course it made me cry buckets. It’s wonderfully-directed, gorgeously-shot and expertly-acted… and the heartbreaking story lingered with me long after I saw it.

LightBetweenOceans
2. Name an actor, an actress and a director you would pair in a movie and what genre would it be?

Sam Riley + Naomie Harris in a romantic noir by Michael Mann.

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3. Last song you listened to.

Great song by a Welsh band, and the video stars my current fave Welshman Aneurin Barnard!

4. Book to movie adaptation you would like to see happening in the near future?

DaughterOfTime RA_Aneurin_DaughterOfTime

I just finished this a couple of months ago. I’d LOVE to see The Daughter of Time adapted as a feature (or TV miniseries). The idea of Richard Armitage as the bed-ridden (ehm) inspector Grant sounds delish… and I soooo want Aneurin Barnard reprising his The White Queen role as Richard III in the flashback scenes.

5. From all the Chris’, which one do you prefer: Evans, Pine, Hemsworth or Pratt?

Though they’re all nice to look at, I don’t fancy any of them in terms of looks. But Chris Pratt has the best personality so I definitely pick him.

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6. Name your 3 movie pet peeves.

  • Rude people who uses their phone during a movie in a theater
  • Predictable, cheesy plot you can spot a mile away
  • Amazing actors being underutilized in movies [or not getting enough work!]

7. If you had to choose, what season would you live in forever?

Autumn. Especially in Minnesota with the gorgeous Fall colors!

8. Imagine your pet (or an imaginary pet) had an inner voice, which actors/actress’ voice would he/she have?

Sam Riley’s… in his native Yorkshire accent.

9. You had a really bad day, what book or movie will make you feel better?

Sense & Sensibility. Both the 1995 Ang Lee version and the 2008 BBC version.

SenseSensibilitySenseSensibilityBBC

10. If they were handing out superpowers based on your personality, what superpower would you want and what would you probably end up with?

Oh boy, that’d be a tough one! Well I have an obsessive streak in me & I’m an aspiring screenwriter, so I’d love to have a superpower where I have all the talent, clout & money in the world to make the films I want with the actors/filmmakers I want. What I’d end up with? Utter, massive disappointment that I’ll never get to do any of that 😦

11. Sleep, Marry, Kill:

This is a tough one as I actually don’t fancy ANY of these people (except perhaps Hardy circa Inception), nor do I have strong negative feelings for.

Round 1: Joel Kinnaman, Ryan Reynolds, Dave Franco

Sleep: Reynolds | Marry: Kinnaman | Kill: Franco

Round 2: Jared Leto, Chris Evans, Orlando Bloom

Sleep: Leto | Marry: Evans | Kill: Bloom

Round 3: Paul Rudd, Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender

Sleep: Fassbender | Marry: Hardy | Kill: none (I mean who could possibly kill Paul Rudd??)

Round 4: Choose between three guys you picked to marry from previous rounds

Marry: Chris Evans (he seems like the most *normal* one I can imagine living with)


Questions from Margaret:

1. Who would play you in a movie based on your life?

Hmmm, I’ve been asked this once before. There’s no Asian actress currently who looks even remotely like me, but hey, you always want someone 100 times prettier, smarter and wittier to play you in a movie right? In that case I picked Rashida Jones… [she’s also got a similar skin tone, height and age as me] 😀

RashidaJones

2. What is your favorite movie ending of all time?

The Dark Knight – Gordon’s speech narrating the scene + the music = absolutely perfect.

3. Who is your favorite cinematic Batman?

Wow, I hadn’t seen this question when I answered #2. So naturally… Christian Bale.

4. What is the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?

I’ll go with a recent one that’ll stand to be a comedy classic: What We Do in The Shadows

5. Your sexiest movie character ever choice?

Even 65 years later, still tough to top Brando in Streetcar Named Desire [fanself]

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6. What do you like most about our movie blogosphere?

The movie discussions & fangirl/boy-ing 😀

7. What is your favorite movie blog?

Oh man, too many to mention…

8. Will Sati survive Blade Runner 2?

Ahah, that’s VERY questionable. I’ve advised her to take someone who knows CPR to the movie!

9. What is your most anticipated movie at the moment?

Not a movie, but BBC mini-series SS-GB!

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10. What is the most under-seen movie you love?

Ahah, pretty much everything Sam Riley‘s been in is under-seen. But if I have to pick one, it’d be the Austrian western Das Finstere Tal (The Dark Valley) – review coming next week!

11.What movie character do you identify with?

Sense & Sensibility‘s Elinor Dashwood.


The 11 bloggers I’m nominating:

1. MichaelIt Rains, You Get Wet

2. CindyCindy Bruchman’s Blog

3. VinnieVinnieh Blog

4. Steven – Surrender To The Void

5. Khalid – Blazing Reel

6. Eddie – Jaccendo

7. Anna – Movie Nut

8. The VernVideo Vortex

9. ZöeSporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger

10. PaulPfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies

11. TiffanyPresents of the Past

Wish I could nominate more but hey fellow bloggers, if this meme strikes your fancy, feel free to take part!

My 11 questions to them:

  1. Who’s your favorite female filmmaker?
  2. Which actor/actress would you be willing to wait in line for say, 5 hours, to meet?
  3. If you could write ANY screenplay, what genre would it be? [Feel free to elaborate if you have a specific idea in mind already]
  4. Who’s your favorite male AND female film characters in the past decade?
  5. Same as above but for TV series/mini-series.
  6. What film genre you wish studios (Hollywood or otherwise) would make more of?
  7. Inspired by Dell’s recent Against the Crowd Blogathon, what critically-panned film you’d defend with a passion in the past decade?
  8. What movie you saw this year that surprised you in a big way [whether good or bad]?
  9. If you could have a single piece of clothing from any film, which one would you pick?
  10. If you could be James Corden for a day for one episode of Carpool Karaoke, which one musical artist (or actor if he/she is also a singer) would you invite?
  11. What’s your most reliable guilty pleasure movie?

Well that was fun! Hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about moi 🙂

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JULY 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

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I can’t believe I’m doing yet another monthly roundup. I swear I just did this not that long ago.

The last day of July also marks a milestone for me as I finally got to type those elusive two words at the bottom of my script!!!

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Now I’m going to lock it away for a month (an advice I took from a screenwriting site) before I tinker with it again… so no, I haven’t got to that coveted FINAL draft yet. But still, it took me nearly a year to finally get to this point so it’s quite exciting!

Well it turns out I did watch quite a bit of movies in July, both new-to-me and re-watches. August screenings include Suicide Squad, Florence Foster Jenkins, Pete’s Dragon, Anthropoid and The Light Between Oceans. Still hoping to get a screener link of Equals, the romance sci-fi by Drake Doremus w/ Kristen Stewart & Nicholas Hoult, so hopefully I get that soon.

So anyway, here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

13movie

13 (2011)

CaptFantasticCaptain Fantastic (2016) – review upcoming

AdventurerMidasBox

The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2013)

SecretLifePets

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters (2016)

STB

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

AbFabMovie

Absolutely Fabulous (2016)

JasonBourne

Jason Bourne (2016) – review upcoming

Laura

Laura (1944)

LifeMovie

Life (2015)


Look for my review of Jason Bourne and a guest review of Café Society sometime next week!


Blindspot Pick

Laura1944poster


 Rewatches

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….
Gladiator (2000) | Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016) | BBC’s Sense & Sensibility (2008)  | Superman Returns (2006) | Toy Story 3 (2010) | The Dark Valley (2014) | Becoming Jane (2007) | Working Girl (1988) | The Age of Adaline (2015)

I ended up re-watching a ton of movies this past month. Most of these are on Netflix and Amazon Prime, so I might as well watch them when they’re still available. Some of them I own the Blu-ray (PPZ, Toy Story 3, Superman Returns and BBC’s Sense & Sensibility) and you know my penchant for period dramas, naturally I have to watch a few every month 😉

I hadn’t watched Working Girl for at least a decade and I have to say it’s definitely shown its age but it’s still pretty enjoyable. Boy whatever happened to Melanie Griffith? I mean Harrison Ford is definitely still relevant and so is Sigourney Weaver, heck even David Duchovny who’s only credited as a guy at a birthday party still has a pretty good career now.

I’m participating in Movie Rob’s Genre Grandeur and the this month’s topic is Foreign Language so of course I’m picking one featuring Sam RileyDas Finstere Tal (The Dark Valley), so watch for my comprehensive review of that in the next few weeks.


 TV Series
VEEPseries

I’ve only gotten to two episodes of Season 1 but I enjoyed it so far. Julia Louis Dreyfuss is a hoot as the Veep herself Selina Meyer. I didn’t realize there are 5 seasons already but the good thing is it’s only a half-hour sit-com so it’s easier to catch up on.


MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

MoviesOfTheMonthJuly

It wasn’t as easy to select my movie of the month of July. But out of the contemporary films I saw last month, Captain Fantastic is one I still think about the most. I’m hoping to review it soon, but it’s certainly one of the most unique films ever and Viggo Mortensen is well, fantastic.

I’ve been wanting to watch Laura for a long time. My friend Vince reviewed it for me back in 2011 and he highly recommended it. It’s one of the most acclaimed classic noir mystery and was nominated for five Oscars. Well, it certainly lived up to the hype. I was quite mesmerized by the beautiful Gene Tierney.


Well that’s my viewing recap of July. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

Weekend Roundup: ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ (2016), ’13’ (2010), ‘Toy Story 3’ (2010)

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How was your weekend everyone? It was a glorious day on Saturday so hubby and I went for walks at two different lakes, Lake Nokomis and Lake Minnetonka. Weather is absolutely glorious it’d be a crime to spend time indoors.

I did manage to see a new movie this weekend, The Secret Life of Pets, I should have my review of it up later this week. I also re-watched Toy Story 3 and was blown away by how good and emotionally-compelling it was. It’s definitely much more than just a fun, feel-good kids movie. The Toy Story trilogy still reign supreme as the best animated movies ever, it won’t be a hyperbole to call it Pixar’s masterpiece.


I’m happy to report that I’m finally done with ALL of my dahling Sam Riley‘s filmography!! I watched the thriller ‘13‘ on Thursday night, which is actually a remake of a Georgian film by the same director, Géla Babluani. I’ve mentioned that movie and posted a trailer on this post. I probably won’t review it fully, as I’d rather write about Sam’s other films.

I can see why this film was panned by critics, it kind of wasted the talented cast, though it’s still amusing to see the likes of Michael Shannon, Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone and Jason Staham in it. Hey it even had the new Tarzan Alexander Skarsgård in it, but most of their roles are pretty small. As the protagonist, Sam held his own against the more experienced cast. His American accent is believable and I totally buy him as a blue collar worker from Ohio! 🙂 The movie was the most intense during the Russian roulette game, and Sam was the heart of the movie as a money-stricken young man who had no idea what he’s got himself into.


Having seen ALL of Sam’s films now, I’m even more dismayed that his career didn’t go as far as it could’ve been. He’s so freakin’ talented with such screen presence and intensity. The movie wouldn’t have been worth watching for me if it weren’t for Sam.

Ok, my obsession with Richard III continues. I’ve finished Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time and now reading Paul Murray Kendall’s Richard The Third which came highly recommended from Philippa Langley, the lady who found the King in the car park back in 2012. So this weekend I watched a couple of Tower of London documentaries, which is a fascinating castle that holds soooo many secrets. The more I read about King Richard though, the more I’m convinced that him being depicted as the killer of the Princes in the Tower is a blatant Tudor propaganda.
TowerOfLondonDocs


This week I’ll be going to the Ghostbusters and Captain Fantastic. I’m more curious than excited about the first, but I have been looking forward to the latter since it premiered at Sundance. Can’t go wrong with Viggo Mortensen in a quirky drama.
Ghostbusters–CaptFantastic


So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?